～ Thoughts for Disaster Prevention from Tommy ～
"Lives of people with disabilities,
Future we can build together"
Experiencing a major earthquake,
I felt the powerlessness of human beings keenly.
At the time of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995), I was asleep and my body was pushed up from the bottom and floated in the air. Along with a sense of fear that I had never experienced before, I vividly remember the sound of the earth shaking and rumbling. It was a complete change from the town we had lived in the day before. The poles and houses were badly damaged, and we didn't know which way to turn right or left. There was smoke and dust in the air, and it was impossible to tell whether it was day or night, and the town was in such turmoil. As the light snow flickered in the extreme cold, I felt as if I could see both sides of human nature. One flinched helplessly and behaved arrogantly to the end. On the other hand, there is the person who came to the shelter in his or her clothes, but shared one of his or her socks with me to keep out the cold. I saw a town that looked just like the wartime scene I had learned about in a textbook. I think it's a miracle that my whole family is safe and that we survived.
Independent living is possible because we are alive.
Through my own experience of the disaster, I realized that today's day may not be the same as tomorrow's. I started living on my own in Osaka and even after I started living on my own, my fear of a major disaster did not subside and in fact increased. Even after I started living in Osaka and started to live on my own, my fear of a major disaster did not subside and in fact increased. It was during this time that he encountered the CIL Muchu for Independent Living and began to live independently as a person with a disability. While working as a role model in the community, I found it worthwhile to support the independence of my fellow people with severe disabilities, and to this day I continues to do so.
While working as a staff member in charge of disaster prevention at the CIL Muchu, I was frustrated with my days. The people of Osaka have a low awareness of disaster prevention, and it was difficult to get them to feel the passionate desire to protect their lives, even if they talked passionately about it. They are busy with a variety of day-to-day activities, but they don't seem to be able to prioritize. Disaster prevention drills don't seem to be of much use to those of us with limited mobility, because they are set up so that we can use elevators and other equipment. We have been going through a daily process of trial and error to figure out how to get our colleagues in Osaka involved in disaster prevention efforts. But I can assure you of one thing. As a former citizen of Kobe, I have a role to play in conveying this message.
Local Power = Disaster Prevention Power
In the midst of the day-to-day wondering of how to improve the power of disaster prevention, the CIL Muchu has begun to focus on community interaction. It is often said that it is important to build a face-to-face relationship on a daily basis in order to make our town richer, and as a center for independent living, we have been thinking about how to let people with severe disabilities know about our local life. By showing us in person, we can tell them that we, people with disabilities exist in the community and that we are living on their own with their own caregivers and living in their own way. However, it is often the case that people with disabilities are not able to participate in local activities (such as festivals and events) and planning and management meetings. This is why we want to connect with people from many different professions who have no idea of our existence or the lives of people with severe disabilities. We want to show them that we are not a burden to society, but rather a link to building our town that we can live with. We need to go out into the community and meet a variety of people so that the voices of people with disabilities can be more effectively utilized in the community. In today's super-aging society, also the elderly people are feeling various physical and mental difficulties. I think it is an urgent task for us to listen to those voices and deliver them to society.
Working with the younger generation on the future of society
As part of our efforts to enhance our disaster-preparedness through community interaction, we have come to want to meet and support the younger generation. Children, in particular, accept us with disabilities as a matter of course and treat us frankly and flexibly. I really want to work with the young people who are going to carry the future, to create a fun town by enlivening local events. It's great fun to be with people who are physically and mentally strong, imaginative, creative and flexible. With regard to disaster prevention, I want to cultivate the community with a fun, positive attitude and a sense of humor, instead of making rigid and serious plans for disaster prevention, so that we can build a wonderful future together.
Let's create a society where people can love themselves and their friends and value their own community. Each of us must take the initiative and responsibility to pass on this message to the next generation. Let's take action now, without fear of change or failure!
Note: “Lead on!” is an American disability leader's rallying cry for the disability movement, meaning "Before anyone tells you to go, go forward with your sense of responsibility! Believe in yourself and get everyone involved!”